Smaller York Mountain cannabis project is greenlit

TEMPLETON   Months of debate and neighborly recrimination over a project designed to grow food-grade medical cannabis on a ranch seven miles west of “Downtown Templeton,” on Highway 46, came to a close March 26 as lawyers, consultants and San Luis Obispo County Supervisors worked out a deal.

Representatives and consultants for the project applicant, Laura Gardner, and of property owners Frank Ricigliano and Sue Sullivan, repeatedly emphasized the scaled-down nature of the project as being one-seventh of the original size.

What’s more, they said, the project — once approved in September 2018 before appeal by resident Ian McPhee — had already been proven to meet every aspect of the County’s land use ordinance.

A final issue keeping the appeal alive after the project moved greenhouses, eliminated outdoor growing entirely, and removed a processing building from their plans, was a last-minute demand that the owners impose a property deed covenant on the site preventing any future outdoor cannabis cultivation.

That was well beyond the purview of the Board to impose, warned County Counsel Rita Neal, noting that the five-year sunset provision was written into the County’s ordinance for a reason. Namely, it allows reconsideration, unlike other permanent use allocations.

“I don’t want to be dragged back here to go through this all again in five years,” McPhee said, noting that otherwise, yes, he had been on board for the project to go forward with revisions. They were revisions which had been hammered out to appease himself and neighboring property owners.

Ahead of the first round of discussion and a question-and-answer period, Supervisor Adam Hill invited Sullivan to respond to “derogatory comments” and assumptions made about the project and the owners’ intentions.

She explained that her family had been there for a generation and both farmed and leased out the property. Along the way, personal events had caused an interest in natural medicines, particularly plant-based formulas for children.

For the project, they’ve partnered with a Stanford and Cal Poly educated researcher to ensure quality for medical purposes.

Supervisor Lynn Compton responded, “I hear you but it’s not important to me why.”

She was more concerned with the legalities of making a deal with the County involved.

While staff “furiously typed up,” acceptable language for an official motion, after two recesses and reconvening the matter at the end of a long day’s meeting, Board Chair Debbie Arnold noted the entire affair had gone, “way off script,” but she thanked all parties involved, including Supervisor Compton who had provided impromptu mediation services in the interim.

“We appreciate you working all day to negotiate,” Arnold said.


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